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Vaccines Health Center

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Flu Vaccine FAQ

What the CDC Wants You to Know About the 2010-2011 Flu Vaccine

I'm pregnant. Why should I risk getting a flu shot?

The risk is actually in not getting a flu shot.

We know pregnancy changes a healthy woman's risk of severe flu illness. We had a number of pregnant women die last year of flu.

Pregnancy and flu are a bad combination. Pregnancy increases the risk that a healthy woman who gets the flu will get sick, be hospitalized, or die.

Because the flu shot is only a protein that can't give a person the flu, the benefit of vaccination far outweighs any possible risk from the vaccine itself. That goes for the woman as well as for her developing baby.

We do have 50 years of experience giving the flu vaccine to women who are or who become pregnant. We have never had the slightest indication -- no indication at all -- that it could somehow be harmful to the developing baby. With billions of doses given, there is not a shred of evidence the vaccine is harmful to the fetus. It is all benefit; there seems to be no risk at all.

And is there any benefit for the baby? It is worth saying that in addition to protecting the mother, there is some research that suggests babies born to vaccinated women are less likely to get the flu in their first 6 months of life. And infants who get the flu are at very high risk of severe complications.

I'm breastfeeding. I know babies under age 6 months should not get the vaccine. If I get the vaccine, won't it put my baby at risk?

The reason the flu vaccine isn't recommended for infants under age 6 months is that not many studies have been done to see if it is safe and effective in babies that young.

But if the vaccine is given to a woman who is breastfeeding, it will protect the mother. It might also indirectly protect the baby, too, because the mom won't get sick and the infant won't get the flu from its mom. And flu vaccine given to a breastfeeding woman poses no risk to the baby.

I'd like to add that we try to "cocoon" a young infant against getting the flu. We try to make sure everyone in the infant's household is vaccinated, so they will not bring the flu home to children too young to be vaccinated themselves.

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